It's hard to believe Ridley Scott's handsome epic won't become the cinematic touchstone of the Crusades for years to come. Kingdom of Heaven is greater than the sum of its parts, delivering a vital, mostly engrossing tale ... more »following Balian (Orlando Bloom), a lonely French blacksmith who discovers he's a noble heir and takes his father's (Liam Neeson) place in the center of the universe circa 1184: Jerusalem. Here, grand battles and backdoor politics are key as Scott and first-time screenwriter William Monahan fashion an excellent storyline to tackle the centuries-long conflict. Two forward-thinking kings, Baldwin (Edward Norton in an uncredited yet substantial role) and Saladin (Ghassan Massoud), hold an uneasy truce between Christians (who hold the city) and Muslims while factions champ at the bit for blood. There are good and evildoers on both sides, with the Knights Templar taking the brunt of the blame; Balian plans to find his soul while protecting Baldwin and the people. The look of the film, as nearly everything is from Scott, is impressive: his CGI-infused battle scenes rival the LOTR series and, with cinematographer John Mathieson, create postcard beauty with snowy French forests and the vast desert (filmed in Morocco and Spain). An excellent supporting cast, including Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, and David Thewlis, also help make the head and heart of the film work. Many critics pointed out that Bloom doesn't have the gravitas of Russell Crowe in the lead (then again, who does?), but it's the underdeveloped character and not the actor that hurts the film and impacts its power. Balian isn't given much more to do than be sullen and give an occasional big speech, alongside his perplexing abilities for warfare tactics and his wandering moral compass (whose sole purpose seems to be to put a love scene in the movie). Note: all the major characters except Neeson's are based on fact, but many are heavily fictionalized. --Doug Thomas« less
"UPDATE: I originally wrote the following because of the notice that there would be an eventual extended edition of the movie. The update is that Amazon.com now has a listing for said extended edition that comes in at 191 minutes and is to be released on 23 May 2006.
I wrote a review for the theatrical release of this film which I will post below if you are curious what I think. I really wanted to just point out that if you enjoyed this film, you might not want to purchase this version. Back when the movie was first released in theatres, Ridley Scott was interviewed and stated that there was almost an hour taken from the movie. He also said there would be a director's cut that would have that material restored. Its not being released now, presumably, so that the studios can get their double dip. Look at Sin City (the "longer extended cut" comes out in December 3 months from its original release date) or Saw which is coming unrated this month to support the sequel. It happens all the time.
Overall, I think the film is decent and I am curious to see what was cut out. I just don't want people who are interested to waste their hard-earned dollars because the studio wants to double dip. Take what I'm saying as a grain of salt because things can change and I'm no "insider" so I can't say for absolute certainty that they will release the director's cut, but there is an interview out there with Scott about the director's cut. So, my recommendation (take it for what you will)? If you enjoyed the movie but wanted more, wait for the inevitable directors cut :)
For those interested, my original review for the theatrical release is pasted below:
When epic films come out, people usually fall into two categories without even seeing the movie: they are excited to see it or they roll their eyes and yawn. I happen to fall into the first category. Epic historical war films like Gladiator, Troy and now Kingdom of Heaven (just to name a few) are a lot of fun to me. There's nothing like seeing boulders of flames lighting the night sky as they explode into castle towers, etc.
From what I've gathered through the media and through friends of mine who are history buffs, the film is pretty accurate as far as movie epics goes; I am not a history buff so I couldn't tell you. Ridley Scott does a good job of mixing fictional (Orlando Bloom's Balian) and historical (The leper king, played by Edward Norton in an excellently subdued role). Complimenting the battle sequences is a rousing score by Harry Gregson-Williams who has done everything from the video game Metal Gear Solid 2 to Shrek. They also sample a song from the Prayer Cycle by Johnathan Elias which is achingly beautiful. Overall the sound fits the theme and the time period admirably well.
The story is pretty standard epic film stuff. You have the unwitting hero, the possible love interest, the possible love interest's evil husband, all engulfed in the massive Crusades that are tearing apart Jerusalem. One thing I am glad for is that I feel Ridley Scott and screenwriter William Monahan did a more accurate portrayal of the Crusades by showing not only the religious side of events but also the socio-political and economical themes that pushed the war forward.
I think Orlando Bloom has been criticized perhaps too strongly in this movie. Most professional reviews comment that he is too "pretty boy" for the role. It's almost as if critics are trying to pigeon hole him and type cast him into that role. I'm not trying to defend Orlando Bloom, but it never really struck me as the "fish out of water" character casting that professional critics are demanding it is. Sure, he relied on the look of a puppy dog who's lost his best friend a little much, and yeah he has that "pretty boy" look I suppose but come on, if you don't allow someone to do something different, you're just reinforcing his type cast which leads to a vicious cycle.
You might feel that even though the movie is a good 2 hours and 25 minutes that it felt like something was missing. And, that's probably because something was missing, about 80 more minutes. In an interview with Ridley Scott, he mentioned that the theatrical cut is not his cut and that he was planning on releasing a directors cut on DVD that encompasses an amazing 220 minutes. I suppose the production company decided they didn't want to have an almost 4 hour movie in the theatres right now and so decided to chop sometime off, but according to reports with Ridley Scott that's not what he wanted to happen exactly.
Going with the cuts and the story, I think part of what was left out might have been more of Saladin's point of view. It seemed as if the movie wanted to show both sides as there were moments were we saw dissent on the Arab side as well as a hint of some motives. I'm hoping that this was something we'll see more of in the DVD cut because it creates a better picture of just what was going on.
I would like to say that it would be better to catch this on DVD so one could see the movie in its entirety, but fans of this genre know that the best place to see these movies is in the theatre. Just know that when it comes out on DVD it will be more complete. It's a pretty good epic film. There were some nice fighting sequences and the final siege of Jerusalem leading up to the climax was stunning. Personally I enjoyed it much more than Troy and Alexander of last year. It might not live up to Ridley Scott's Gladiator right now, but come DVD it has a chance I think."
D. Mikels | Skunk Holler | 05/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All right, all right, this epic looks and feels like Ridley Scott's earlier masterpiece, "Gladiator," and it has a peach-fuzzed Legolas as its lead, yet. . .yet. . .KINGDOM OF HEAVEN absolutely entertains and rewards its viewers with complete cinematic bliss.
Director (and Producer) Scott brings forth the story of the medieval Crusades while simultaneously employing many of the filmmaking techniques and gadgetry that made "Gladiator" an Oscar-caliber winner. Here, in KINGDOM, we are treated to the same compelling movie-making craftmanship: sweeping vistas, slow-motion photography (augmented by flying debris of dirt, weaponry, and various body parts), stellar images, haunting music. Scott has succeeded, just as he did with "Gladiator," in telling a story so hypnotically appealing that the viewer is instantly transported to the 12th Century, where day-to-day life was, if one may be so bold, somewhat risky, and fraught with peril unimaginable.
What totally surprised me the most was the performance of Orlando Bloom. As a young French blacksmith who suffers from the recent loss of his wife and child, and then makes a life-changing decision to join his Catholic brethren in Jerasulem--at the present an unstable bastion of religious tolerance--Bloom's character Balian is completely troubled, tortured, compelling, and believable. The actor takes this epic on his youthful shoulders and carries it admirably--even when the story stretches itself to limits as tight as a rubber band on the verge of snapping apart. Bloom is extraordinary; his Legolas legacy is successfully jettisoned.
Yet KINGDOM OF HEAVEN boasts a plethora of incredible acting performances. Liam Neeson is wonderful as Balian's long-lost father, Godfrey; Jeremy Irons remarkable as Jerusalem marshal Tiberias; Eva Green sensuous and delightful as story love interest Sibylla; Ghassan Massoud steady and rational as Muslim antogonist Saladin; Brendan Gleeson despicable as a bigoted Crusader nobleman; Marton Csokas maniacal as the ultimate evil-doer Guy de Lusignan--a potential leader obsessed with re-igniting a Christian-Muslim war. And Edward Norton, as fragile, disease-infested King Baldwin IV, weighs in with perhaps the film's best performance.
Yes, this sword and sandal epic has been down the road of "been there, done that," yet KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is handsome enough to stand proudly on its own dusty merits. The siege of Jerusalem alone is worth the price of admission. Highly recommended. --D. Mikels"
Too bad it didn't do better at the box office
Senor Zoidbergo | Washington D.C. | 04/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I really enjoyed the theatrical cut, and now, get ready for all the nice storylines that were deleted. What you'll see on the director's cut (referenced from AICN) SPOILERS AHEAD!!:
- did you realize that the priest at the beginning is actually the half-brother of Balian (Orlando Bloom)? Their relationship is much more complicated and unpleasant in this version, and we learn that Balian is in jail following his wife's death, thanks to his brother's claim that he is possessed by the devil.
- We also learn that Balian was an engineer before he became a blacksmith, that he built war machines when he was part of an army, and he's released from prison because the local lord needs Balian's help. So much more work is put into the establishment of Balian's character that by the time we actually meet him in the film now, we have a sense of who he is.
- The lord that Balian works for? Turns out, he's Neeson's brother, and when Godfrey shows up in the village, he's coming home. There's an entire scene that takes place at the castle where it's clear that his absence made it possible for his brother to take over, something that his brother doesn't want to see change. Since Godfrey has no heir, if he dies, then his new lands also become the property of the brother, something that makes more sense of the battle scenes involving Neeson and his group of soldiers.
- When Neeson goes to talk to Balian the first time, he stops at the door to the smith's shop, looking out at a particular spot. He flashes back to when he was younger, to when he was with Balian's mother, and that one moment says all we need to know about the particular paradise that Godfrey seeks and that he knows he'll never find again. It explains so much about why he would want to come and make amends and reach out to Balian. He's looking for absolution, and he figures he can find it this way, and the film shows us instead of just telling us.
- Baldwin IV is shown refusing the last sacrament from Patriarch Heraclius.
- Another major change is the re-insertion of the character of Baldwin V (who was shown in some of the trailers), here depicted as the son of Sibylla by Guy. He is portrayed as suffering from leprosy, like his uncle. His death is depicted as an act of euthanasia by his mother, using poison.
- Balian also fights a climactic duel with Guy.
- Additionally, Eva Green's role as the Queen has been expanded, and she's not there just for Orland Bloom's sexual interest.
- More insight into absolution, forgiveness, and politics in this time period."
Exceptional presentation for an exceptional film that was bu
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 05/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"(Please note: This is for the 4 disc director's cut--for some reason this is combined with ALL versions of the movie including the Blu-ray. The Blu-ray features ONLY the first two discs of this set on one Blu-ray disc. None of the discs with extras are included as part of the package).
Sometimes longer is better particularly when you have a complex story. The theatrical version of "Kingdom of Heaven" was flawed from the beginning with significant narrative gaps that undermine the character development and the smooth momentum of the story. That's because Fox had Scott cut the film by nearly an hour deleted significant and important character development at the expense of trying to fit in more showings per theater. The result was a sprawling ambitious project that had the epic scope of "Lawrence of Arabia" without the narrative strength. Thank God for DVD. "Kingdom of Heaven: The Director's Cut" restores the material demonstrating that the original 3 hour cut was a brilliant film that played theatrical late last year after the film had bombed at the box office. The reason the film bombed was the idiotic decision to cut the film and make it shorter reducing the film's impact. While it might not have made a huge amount of money it would have done well at the box office as a prestige film AND would have deservedly been nominated for Oscars. Much of the background story is fleshed out and the relationships between the various characters are more clearly defined. "Kingdom of Heaven" is a magnificent epic film that recalls the power of David Lean's epics and allows Scott's historical drama to breath. If you've seen the theatrical cut you owe it to yourself to see this major film from a major talent.
The film is presented like the "Lord of the Rings" deluxe sets with the film spread over two discs. Featuring a beautiful anamorphic transfer this version of the film actually looks superior with less issues with digital artifacts when compared to the previous edition of the film. The 5.1 audio presentation sounds wonderful with both a 5.1 and 5.1DTS track that makes exceptional use of the format. You'll feel like you've put plopped down into the middle of the battle sequences in the action sequences and there's wonderful ambient sound effects sprinkled throughout the film even during sequences that are dialogue driven.
Special features are terrific in this set. We start off with an introduction by Scott discussing the "Director's Cut" compared to the theatrical version of the film. Featuring Scott, writer William Monahan and actor Orlando Bloom the first commentary track (it was recorded separately and pieced together) becomes a rich resource of trivia beginning with the origin of the project and how Scott and Monahan ended up working together. The second commentary track has visual effects director Wes Sewell, assistant director Adam Somner and producer Lisa Elizey discussing the technical aspects of the shoot and the challenges they faced covering everything from the use of digital and on set effects to second unit photography. The last commentary has editor Dody Dorn discussing the two different versions of the film. We also have production notes and information about the shooting of the film provided as text commentary.
The third and fourth discs have most of the supplements. Unfortunately neither has the excellent A&E documentary that was part of the two disc set so you may want to hold on to your other set if you haven't sold it already. We have "The Path to Redemption" presented in six separate parts with each running anywhere from a half hour to twenty minutes a piece covering the making of the film. The first of the three parts include text, images, early screenplay drafts and notes on the shooting of the movie. The second part has cast rehearsals covering everything from the training with the weapons to costume tests. The third of the three parts has storyboards as well as a short documentary featuring scholars discussing the accuracy of the film.
The fourth disc features the last three parts on the film and includes video shot on location, storyboard galleries and photo galleries as well as deleted/extended/alternate scenes with optional commentary by Scott and editor Dorn. There's also a section on the visual effects of the film as well as various sound elements to create the unique sound mix of the film presented in various stages. The last section features trailers, TV spots, the Showest presentation. There's also footage from various premieres around the world, poster galleries, footage of the press junket shot on video, image and poster galleries as well as a brief featurette similar to the one done for "Gladiator: The Extended Version" that discussed the creation of this special edition.
An exceptional film that was badly butchered by Fox prior to its premiere due to skittish leadership at Fox, the film has finally been presented the way it should have been in the first place. Fox DVD has done an exceptional job in putting together this package and has made amends for the way it handled the film when it was released theatrical last year. Highly recommended. "
A Better Movie (a better world?)
Kimball O'Hara | California, USA | 11/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I believe that if this version of the movie had reached the theaters, it would have ranked with GLADIATOR (Scott's Academy Award Winning Movie). Other reviewers have said that it's a different movie and I absolutely agree so I won't belabor that. Read their reviews because they said it better than I will.
The movie moguls who carved up KINGDOM OF HEAVEN need to have their heads (metaphorically) put on a pike in front of the studio. The director's cut deserves very high marks. I own the theatrical release and it was good (maybe a B or a B+) The director's cut gets an A in my book.
Ok, I'm cheap. I didn't want to spend more money to buy another version of Kingdom of Heaven because I did enjoy the theatrical release and bought the movie. A friend recommended I buy this version (Director's Cut) and I have thanked him for the advice because I had the opportunity (after buying this version) of watching a balanced, developed, thoughtful movie where the characters were developed, where their actions made sense.